Speech Therapy

Finance types aren't known for being scintillating speakers. There are ways to change that.
Laura DeMarsDecember 27, 2006

Finance executives are increasingly taking the stage to communicate corporate strategy to analysts, shareholders, employees, and boards. But many of them readily admit they’d rather hold a lightning rod in a thunderstorm than a microphone on stage.

Little wonder, then, that presentation coaching is a growing industry. Options range from self-help software to seminars and classes to one-on-one coaching. Two of the largest training programs, offered by Communispond and Dale Carnegie Training, provide a service whereby speakers are videotaped to analyze their skills and bad habits. Executives also learn how to project their voices and smile, use humor, and speak extemporaneously. The American Management Association offers executives a course in public speaking, as well as seminars on presenting and projecting a positive image. The cost of the two- or three-day seminars ranges from $1,495 to $1,995.

Whatever the organization, the recommendations sound a common theme. The most important skill, says Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie & Associates — the great-granddaddy of public-speaking firms — is being able to judge the audience. This is especially true for finance executives, who need to convey complex subjects to those with varying degrees of financial expertise. “We emphasize how to get to know the audience, and how to tailor your message to its level,” he says.

Hub Group CFO Tom White says that taking the Dale Carnegie course was one of the best things he’s ever done. “I used to hate speaking in front of audiences, and now I love it. CFOs study a very technical, quantitative subject. You notice when someone hasn’t had training [in public speaking].”

For those who are looking to improve their skills on the cheap, hypnotist Tom Nicoli offers a series of CDs for less than $60 that claim to hypnotize users, giving them confidence and improving their ability to speak in public. It could be just the thing for speakers who put their audiences to sleep.